What’s the Matter with Kids These Days?
Similar statements can be traced back to comments adults made in antiquity. Are today’s young people- millennials or GenY- really that different? The answer is a very unequivocal- yes and no?
They are Not Like Us in the Following Ways:
- More self-centered and less concerned with social and political issues. They tend to be coddled and believe that they are entitled to all that their parents had. As one young adult put it- “I always thought that I would have the same standard of living my parents had when I got married and had children.” This may be the first generation to not do as well financially as their parents.
- The first generation for which “work ethic” is not one of the top five values. Picky about jobs they take. The average tenure of a GenY in a job is two years. They will leave if they don’t like the job and it doesn’t allow for work-life balance.
- They appear to be less interested in having sex and have fewer sexual partners than past generations. They marry later.
- They are a wired generation. They have no landline. Ninety percent have a social media site. One in five have posted a video of themselves on a social media site.
- Thirty-nine percent have a tattoo and nearly one in four have a piercing in some place other than their earlobe.
- Over sixty percent of millennials believe it is their responsibility to have elderly parents come to live with them. This is compared to only twenty-five percent of boomers who believe their parents should come to live with them.
They are Like Us in the Following Ways:
- They have certain traditional values. Although they are the least overtly religious group, they pray about as often as their parents.
- Eighty four percent want to make a positive difference in the world. Somewhat reminiscent of the boomers who lived through the sixties. A characteristic somewhat at odds with the self centered view of millennials.
- They are closer to their parents than past generations. Over half of millennials say their parents are their best friend. They strive to be a good parent and value family.
- Although more traveled than their parents as young adults, they want to live close to home.
- They contribute to causes and are avid volunteers not unlike the young adults of the sixties and seventies who are now the boomer parents.
More information on the characteristics of today’s young adults is available by downloading or obtaining a print copy of “Do You Speak Millennial”ese” available on the website.
Something to Keep in Mind
Differences are not necessarily bad! They are differences that we need to understand if we are going to have meaningful relationships with our young adult children. Similarities are not necessarily good. The survey statistics suggests some contradictions. For instance, those findings that argue this is a self-centered highly narcissistic generation versus those studies indicating that they want to make a difference in the world. Or the finding that they believe they should take care of elderly parents in the home.
So How Can a Parent of Young Adults Increase an Understanding of Them?
- Group data cannot be applied to one person, in this case a young adult. So don’t assume that your young adult’s views are consistent with those found in the various studies. So start with understanding your young adult rather than seeing them through the lens of surveys. Surveys may help illuminate some aspects of your young adult’s experience but their experience is unique.
- If you want to understand your young adult, one lens to use is that of the developmental tasks they face- identity, independence and intimacy and the universal need to find happiness. If you listen for these themes, you will hear them.
- Developing the practice of being a good, “nonjudgmental” listener is critical to building a more meaningful relationship with the young adult. How good a listener are you? Parents of young adults need to listen with the head and the heart and listen for their unique qualities. Listening with the head- what are they saying; listening with the heart- what emotions are they communicating in what they are saying?